Does Reverend Toller live or die? The ending of First Reformed explained

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  1. if i have to go on-line to figure out a movie I know i’m in trouble. when i first googled this movie I saw search results included “first reformed ending.” I had a thought this was gonna be a bummer. It was a good movie up till the Occurrence at owl creek bridge ending. The only difference was that owl creek got me out of english class for a week.

  2. This is an outstanding article on this film and exactly how I interpreted the film

  3. But if he commits suicide he cannot go to heaven. My conclusion is that salvation comes through love. That was Jesus Christ teaching. In love life goes on, in Love all is bearable. In love we find understanding, strength, acceptance, forgiveness, joy… life itself. In Love the dissonance disappears, it is reconciled by the very nature of the “virtues” or qualities that love creates.

    • Not necessarily. St. Aquinas who said suicide is a mortal sin but Samson did not commit suicide. He martyred himself for God’s people. Hence he is a saint. That’s the temptation. By picking up the mantel of Michael’s cause Reverend Toller transforms himself (in his mind of course) from doomed suicidal sinner to a martyr.

  4. Good analysis, but I think it is a self absorbed, narcissistic pessimistic look at human nature. Altogether miserable story. ???

  5. what a lotta writing for not very complicated (to me) ending. He’s prepared to die, a woman he knows he could love shows up at the exact right moment, and he changes his mind. All the rest strikes me as a distraction from what seems to me a scene about God’s love and mercy when this man needs it most.

  6. I agree with Jeff about this article being an outstanding analysis of the movie. I would perhaps add one more attempt here for the interpretation of the last scene – the psychoanalitic concept of a close link in between the life and death instinct. This is based on the Greek mythology where the gods of life and death are twins. In practical terms this brings us to the last scene of the movie- the scene of the kiss. My understanding of this scene is that it is the real moment of his death. At that moment of his death, his mind goes to the fantasy of the kiss to ease his pain and suffering connected with his physical response to the drain cleaner. Psychoanalytically speaking would be natural for him (and for other people) to follow this specific thought pattern/instinct pattern blending an instinct to die with an instict to live. When I write about it what also comes to my mind is the motif of the west and the belief system suppprting the acts when people use such objects to end their lives. These people support “the good cause” they “believe in”. Their ultimate fantasy is a slightly more advanced version of the kiss. You see- different scenario but the same (human) thought /instinc pairing pattern. It is undoubtedly a complex movie and many people will interpret it in several different ways.

    • Toller dies at the end. His embraces with Mary are the last dreams of a dying man The door to the parsonage was locked We know this because Rev Jeffers tried to enter and couldn’t Mary couldn’t have entered either

  7. The analysis is good but does not address the fact that he is already dying. (The very reason he decided to go out with a bang.)

    • That’s a good point! The cancer definitely accelerated his destructive behavior.

      • I thought Mary and her husband were conning him the entire time, hence making him become the martyr and causing a bigger splash in the fight against climate change. While changing out of the bomb, I thought Mary (faking pregnant) was about to set off a suicide bomb of her own, killing all the “false prophets” but sparing the Reverend.

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